I am the Vice Provost, Students at Ryerson University – this is a senior administrative position with responsibility for Undergraduate Admissions and Recruitment, Registrarial Services, Student Affairs and Athletics. I have spent the last 25 years working on university campuses in some role related to student support and student engagement. In this role the regular contact that I have with students is often limited to two specific groups of students. The first group includes the leaders and award winners – those who get involved on campus, lead their student associations and governments, represent students on boards and committees, and win competitions and academic awards. This is also the group of students that every other senior administrator at the university knows and wants to interact with, so my time with these folks is sometimes limited given their many commitments and the access they have to the President, Vice Presidents and Deans. The second group includes the students who are struggling in some way – having financial struggles, having a mental health crisis, having gotten into trouble either academically or with respect to one of the student codes of conduct. This is the group that I probably interact with or about the most. My staff and I are called into all manner of concerns and issues and we attempt to support finding solutions that will assist these students. What’s missing is the opportunity to have meaningful interaction and engagement with the average student who is not in crisis and who is not serving in a leadership role and meeting with other university leaders. I attend lots of events … orientation events, street fairs, receptions and sporting events but it can be challenging to get beyond some superficial chit chat in these settings. I needed a plan for engaging with students in a different way. Hence The In Their Shoes Project was born. I have decided that along with my day to day work responsibilities, I will always have an activity on the books that puts me side by side with students experiencing what they are experiencing on campus, learning about who they are, what they do and what they think about their experiences. I also plan to share what I am learning with others through interviews with students, videos of our interaction and work together, photographs and blog entries. I am very excited about this project and I hope that you will join me in learning about the experiences of some of our students and my experience along-side them.
First Chapter: What if I was a 4th Year Fashion Student?
September 2014 – April 2015 – Fourth Year Capstone Experience with our Fashion Design and Fashion Communication Students
Each year the 4th students in the School of Fashion at Ryerson begin in September preparing their capstone project in Fashion Design or Fashion Communication. The Fashion Design students design and prepare a mini-collection of 5 looks to be presented in April in the year-end Fashion show called Mass Exodus. The Fashion Communication students research and prepare a capstone project that includes a visual display of their work that is exhibited in conjunction with the Mass Exodus presentation. I will join them starting in September. I will attend the weekly class and will also design and build a 5 piece collection for the show and I will prepare a visual display of this project for the Fashion Communication exhibit. Follow me through the process of learning who my fellow students are and about the experience they have preparing a capstone project in the School of Fashion.
Second Chapter: What if I was on the Varsity Women’s Basketball Team?
August 2015 – March 2016 – Ryerson Rams Varsity Women’s Basketball Team
Each year Carly Clarke, the Head Women’s Basketball Coach assembles a team of new and returning high performance athletes to play for the Ryerson Rams Women’s Basketball Team. They complete against other Ontario and Canadian Universities in Ontario University Athletics (OUA) and Canadian Inter-university Sport (CIS) competition. I will join them starting in August 2015 at their pre-season training camp. I will attend all team meetings, practices, training sessions and home and away games as a member of the team. Follow me through the process of learning who my teammates are and about the experience they have being a university Varsity athlete and student.